After Arsenal finally broke their winless streak against Anderlecht yesterday night, a visibly happy Arsene Wenger faced the media in Brussels. The veteran French manager was celebrating his 65th birthday, and a win was the best birthday gift his team could have given him, especially considering how late the result came.
Wenger admitted that it was a nice way to win the game. He was generous with his praise for both Anderlecht and Belgian football in general. He also complimented his boys for holding on at 1-0 down and then showing the grit and determination to come back so late.
It’s a nice end to a game. We played against an Anderlecht team that played very well. [They were] well organised, very focused, very quick in the transition and very good in the challenges. We controlled the game in the first half without creating any chances. In the second half, we opened ourselves up and were a bit more vulnerable on the counter-attacks.
I think the turning point was then not to concede the second goal at 1-0 down. They had a good chance that they didn’t take and in the end, the quality of the players who came on and our experience made the difference, unexpectedly. But as long as we didn’t concede the second goal, I thought we had a chance to take at least a point. It’s a bit unexpected to take the three, considering the quality of the match that Anderlecht played tonight.
I know by experience that the last five minutes in the Champions League – the nerves play a part. We had to get into these five minutes without conceding the second goal. Of course, if they had scored the second goal, it was game over. I had hope. It didn’t look like it but it happened and that means we took all the risks and in the end, it paid off. It’s a little bit of a gambling situation that happens in this kind of games and it worked tonight. It did not look obvious, that is for sure.
I have a big respect for Belgian football because I have suffered a lot here. They have shown again tonight they have produced a lot of top-quality players when we could think all of the big players had left the country. But they produce some good players which we have seen tonight because they do remarkable work with their academy.
[I was]A little bit [worried], but we had the spirit. We had to go [chase the game]. It was disappointing we didn’t create more chances tonight but I put that down to the fact as well that Anderlecht defended very well.
Wenger said that the team was now focussed on getting the results from the next Champions League game, also against Anderlecht, and then they would concentrate on the bigger task of winning the group. That would mean that the Gunners would have to defeat Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates.
Let’s win the next one first when we play Anderlecht at home. We have learned a lot about them tonight and if we beat them then we have a good chance to qualify, then we play Dortmund at home and will see what we can do.
This win is sure to inject confidence into our players, especially the sidelined Podolski. Now, with a Premier League game against struggling Sunderland coming up, Wenger has a golden chance to get his campaign properly back on track. Let’s hope that the Gunners can get a win against the Black Cats this weekend, and hopefully one that doesn’t need a goal in the last minute.